The early results of the outlining experiment are in, and though more research is required before I say so definitively, all indications are that . . .
Y’all know I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer, right? I’ve been at this business professionally for a number of years now, and every single one of my manuscripts–published or not–have been written one scene at a time, with no more guideline than a general knowledge of structure.
For years, Katie and I have been on the opposite ends of the spectrum where it comes to outlining. She’s an avid outliner, I’ve evolved into a hesitant hybrid. She’s right about where my fear of outlining comes from: visions of the rigid structure, complete with Roman numerals and indented letters and numbers, that we–in my generation, at least– learned in school. Rigidity and creativity don’t mix.
But when you think about it as free-writing, scribbling whatever comes to mind in response to structured questions–and sometimes not-so-structured questions–it makes a difference. Wakes the muse, gets the creativity flowing. After you’ve gone through a period of creating what, in all appearances, seems to be river sludge and start picking out the gold nuggets, it’s amazing how quickly things start to develop.
Granted, I did have the same trouble outlining as I do in SOTP writing–what to do with that saggy middle. Happens every time I sit down to write: I know the beginning and I know the end, but getting from point A to point B always threatens my meager sanity. The benefit of outlining is, when something doesn’t work, I simply tear up the index card and start over. In writing, I’d have to rip out entire scenes, then backtrack to change whatever went with them. It didn’t take long–seriously, how long does it take to paint the segment and hit delete?–but it was still a greater and more frustrating effort than just scratchin’ out the scribbles or tearin’ up the card.
My primary defense of being a pantser was that, when I was done, I had a complete novel ready to edit. Outliners have an outline ready to be turned into a novel, which was then ready to be edited. I figured I saved a few steps. And, in my defense, it does take Katie longer to get a novel out than it does me.
But in her defense, her novels are more complicated than mine.
I currently write romance, a genre whose key elements are dictated by time and tradition: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back, and they live happily ever after.
The challenges for writing are still there for me, because I still have to imagine an entire story world for all these wonderful events to take place, characters have to be developed, and the conflict defined, executed, and resolved. But because the elements are the same (yes, it’s formulaic writing–a time-proven formula that works for its readers), I don’t have to spend time making up my own.
And because those elements are the same, if I outlined the rest, I could produce more novels more quickly than I do when I write by the seat of my pants.
Believe me, I was surprised too.
So, early results about outlining? I like it.
Pass the crow.
Want to take the same journey? I recommend Katie’s book and workbook, available on Amazon:
Similar posts of my outlining journey:
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